What we call our destiny is truly our character and that character can be altered
23rd April 2020
Most of us would probably agree that what makes us who we are is a combination of nature and nurture. However it is often fiercely debated and there are those who would argue that our destinies are almost completely determined by our nature, while there are others who would argue that we have complete freedom to determine every aspect of who and what we are.
Anais Nin emphasises the place that choice has in determining the future that lies ahead of us. In other words the sort of person we are, our character, is not fixed but something we can alter. This is surely good news but it also means we have a responsibility towards ourselves and the sort of person we are to become.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 BC) was interested in how humans could live a good and successful life and he observed that it involved the acquisition of particular virtues of character. He identified virtues such as courage, patience, generosity, and friendliness as important characteristics that would benefit not only an individual, but society as a whole. However he recognised that we can’t change our behaviour just at the drop of a hat. But change is possible, eventually. Moral goodness, says Aristotle, is the result of habit. It takes time, practice (like a musical instrument) encouragement and good role models from whom to learn.
During this challenging time we would do well to reflect on the sort of people we want to become because our characters will shape both our personal destinies and the destiny of our future world.
We can learn about character virtues by observing those who are showing enormous courage, kindness and generosity working in hospitals and care homes, keeping food supplies plentiful and available and those who are caring in the local communities for their neighbours. We can also develop those habits of good character wherever we are, in how we treat those with whom we live and how we behave and communicate online. Not all of us are called to be frontline workers but we can all help towards building a world in which we want to live.
Perhaps we should simply ask, in the words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, ‘What does this moment ask of me?’ and seek to do everything we can to the best of our capabilities.